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Stronger shield to safeguard children - New program helps volunteers recognize and fight child abuse

A village shouldn’t just raise a child; they should protect the child as well.

That is the thrust of Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes’ new child abuse prevention program that’s designed to assist volunteers in recognizing and combating child abuse in their communities.

As they partner with the New York Foundling Fontana Center for Child Protection, the DA hopes that their Brooklyn Child Watch program will ensure that another Nixzmary Brown doesn’t fall through the cracks.

Their partnership was announced just after Nixzmary’s step-father, Caesar Rodriguez, was sentenced to 29 years in prison for beating the seven-year-old to death after the starving child stole a yogurt from the refrigerator.

The murder trial against Nixzmary’s mother, who allegedly levied the fatal blow, is expected to take place this week.

Nixzmary’s death sparked a call to revamp the city’s Administration for Children’s Services, which was accused of failing to see the torturous conditions that the Bedford Stuyvesant girl was living in before it was too late.

Hynes said that Brooklyn Child Watch “will improve the quality of life in Brooklyn communities by fostering participation in violence prevention programs and workshops.”

“My office does an excellent job when it comes to prosecuting child abusers and protecting the victims in criminal cases,” the DA explained. “But many cases of child abuse do not get reported. This is where the community comes in.”

“With the neighborhood involved, we can become aware of many more cases of child abuse and ensure the safety of our children,” he said.

Sponsors for the pilot program include Darkness to Light, First AME Zion Church and Morning Star Highway Church of Christ, to borough houses of worship.

Its goal is to “raise awareness of child abuse issues by encouraging neighborhood volunteer participation,” according to their own statement.

Bill Baccaglini, Executive Director of The New York Foundling Fontana Center said that Brooklyn Child Watch would be a “simple, yet powerful initiative.”

“We believe that every child is everyone’s concern, and The Foundling and The D.A.’s office are uniquely equipped to empower the good people of this borough to help and support each other in protecting the children in their communities,” he said. “We’re devoted to safeguarding the most vulnerable among us, and we are eager to support the residents of Brooklyn so that our children grow and thrive in safe, loving homes.”

“Every child in our county needs to be everyone’s concern and our community must strive to accomplish the goal that every child is afforded the basic human right to live in homes free of abuse and neglect,” explained Ama Dwimoh, Chief of the DA’s Crimes Against Children Bureau, who prosecuted Rodriguez. “Children have no other choice but to depend on the adults that make up their families and community. Brooklyn Child Watch will help to safeguard the children who are our most vulnerable victims and our most precious resource.”

Brooklyn Child Watch will be launched with a series of three workshops taught by staff of The New York Foundling Fontana Center, Kings County District Attorney’s Office Crimes Against Children Bureau, Darkness to Light, First AME Zion Church and Morning Star Highway Church of Christ.

The first workshop will cover types of child maltreatment and teach participants how to identify and report child abuse and neglect. The second workshop will reinforce the adult’s responsibility to safeguard our children and teach seven steps to prevent child sexual abuse. The third workshop gives participants the tools to develop neighborhood partnerships, organize informational events and identify resources to engage the entire community in the work of preventing child abuse and neglect, sources said.

All of the workshops, which are free of charge, will be held at the First AME Zion Church at 54 MacDonough Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, is hosting the workshops.

To recognize the dedication of community volunteers who successfully complete the 6-hour training, the sponsors of Brooklyn Child Watch will award the participants certificates and badges, and honor them at a formal graduation ceremony.

The program is expected to expand to other neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn, Hynes said.

Anyone wishing to learn more, or to participate in the next round of workshops, one can contact the Kings County District Attorney’s office at (718) 250-2000.

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